News, happenings and goings on from the Old Fire Station, Oxford
Want to know more about the epic one-man comedy we have coming up this Saturday? Then have read through our interview with the shows writer Scott Payne and the shows performer & co-writer Simon Jay…
1. One-man epic comedy show. What gave you the idea for that?
We wanted to create a sketch show featuring lots of characters, all played by Simon, but we also wanted to deliver something much more innovative and challenging. I think these days audiences want something more than just ‘one sketch after another’, which can become monotonous at times. With Is he a bit Simon Jay? We wrote a hybrid of sketch show and drama: a play that tells the life story of the fictional Simon Reuben Jay; every sketch moving the story forward. We also wanted to do something bold and ambitious in terms of the performance itself. Simon plays around twenty characters in the show, at one point all at the same time, and doesn’t stop acting for the full 60 minutes; delivering monologues, physical comedy, jokes, audience interaction and dark story beats. You definitely get your money’s worth!
2. Are any of the characters in the story inspired by people you know/knew?
Certain attributes have been borrowed from people we know, including worldviews, lines and turns of phrases. But mostly, the characters are completely fictitious.
3. Does anything in Simon Reuben Jay’s (1931- 2013) life have elements of your own in it?
Some people get confused, but Simon Reuben Jay’s life is completely made up! This isn’t the biography of the 20-something Simon Jay who died last year aged 90! There are elements that are based on our lives, or the lives of people we know. Some of the scenes you’d think were made up due to their lunacy are based on reality, such as one character’s rant about chasing God around the house with a shotgun whilst on hallucinogenic painkillers.
4. We’re intrigued by this dark secret that has been kept from Simon Reuben Jay… Can you give us any hints?
There are subtle hints throughout the play. A certain name keeps getting dropped. Look out for it. This is a show all about identity, and how much the people we encounter in our lifetimes shape us. The secret answers the question: “Is he a bit Simon Jay?”
1. What made you get into acting and Play-Making?
I guess I fell into it. Not to fuel the actor stereotype, but I was a weird child, vulnerable and shy one minute, bombastic and loud the next; so for a show-off it was always going to happen – I loved being ‘something’ not myself on stage and then do it so convincingly that people applauded and went ‘oh you’re so terribly clever’.
I’ve been ‘making plays’ since I was about 8 years old, from little puppet shows with my fellow pupils at primary school to the full-cast Queer Macbeth adaptation I directed and produced for The Terrance Higgin’s Trust last year; I’ve taught myself how to put shows together by trail and error and experimentation. I love being creative, it’s my passion in life, to make something to entertain and inform, but most of all to bring people together and create a dialogue, a community and lasting friendships.
2. What’s your favourite part of the job?
Being asked. There’s nothing greater than getting offers through the work you’ve done, there isn’t a higher compliment I can think of. It’s a true statement of ‘we liked what you did, could you do it again or do something else for us?’ and I’m putting it out there now, I do everything I’m asked (if it’s within reason, although what’s reason?)…
3. Where do your ideas come from?
From observing the world around me; funny little ticks and quirks people I know have. I’m inspired mostly by current affairs and the news, if something is happening in the world, it’ll be the spark to go ‘this isn’t right/there needs to be more of this’ and I set about trying to recreate the world in my own image, that’s what writers do I guess, we play God with bits of paper, impotent to make any physical change. Although I live in hope those things, even ostensibly silly things one writes can have some impact in how the world turns.
4. Any advice to give to someone starting his or her career as a budding actor or scriptwriter?
Don’t feel you have to be any good straight away, get out there and talk and interact with people in the profession who can give you a job or experience but don’t blag or feel you have to be Mr. or Mrs. big-shot, be honest and you’ll stand out! Other than that work hard and as much as possible, create your own work and please, please be kind to your own mistakes and others.
5. Favourite venue you played at or crowd you’ve played to?
So far it’s been playing at Freedom to Be in Collier’s Wood. It was the first LGBTQIA+ Arts Festival in South London, and I was so proud to be a part of it; Debbie (the organizer) came and saw the one-man show in Kennington and wanted it, was so chuffed and what’s more, we performed it in the back of a Catholic Church with pictures of the Pope and Jesus on the walls, I felt I was performing with a very grand and ironic backdrop – that was cool. Also the performance is notable by the fact that I was upstaged by a child’s party balloon that deflated and floated across the stage (unbeknownst to me) and started stalking me… I was wondering why I was getting laughs for saying “hello”…
Is He A Bit Simon Jay? is on Saturday 1st February, 7.30pm. Tickets £9/£7 and are available via the Old Fire Station website and on the door